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"Lamb" focuses on the relationship between Brother Michael Lamb (Liam Neeson), a teacher in a Roman Catholic-run institution for troubled boys in Ireland, and 10-year-old Owen Kane (Hugh ... See full summary »
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Lamb, based on the novel by Bonnie Nadzam, traces the self-discovery of David Lamb in the weeks following the disintegration of his marriage and the death of his father. Hoping to regain some faith in his own goodness, he turns his attention to Tommie, an awkward and unpopular eleven-year-old girl. Lamb is convinced that he can help her avoid a destiny of apathy and emptiness, and takes Tommie for a road trip from Chicago to the Rockies, planning to initiate her into the beauty of the mountain wilderness. The journey shakes them in ways neither expects.
According to Ross Partridge, Oona Laurence's mother was very supportive of her participation in the film. "I was worried that the parents wouldn't understand the approach, the intent, and why we were telling this story; it gave me a lot of confidence when they did." See more »
If you discover that one day you hate me and you're angry with me and that I've ruined your life, at any time, if I'm 90, you'll tell me, won't you?
You'll buy a pair of steel-toed boots and you will find me all alone and dried up and sick in a nursing home and you'll kick my fucking teeth in.
Please don't say that.
You will outgrow me. You will forget everything.
No, I won't.
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Ross Partridge directs and stars in "Lamb," a 2015 film following David Lamb (played by Ross Partridge), a man in his late forties who is quickly becoming aware of his disintegrating goodness. He encounters a girl named Tommie (played by Oona Lawrence). Though she's only eleven years old, David is aware that she is in danger of becoming just as defeated by life as he is. The two connect, and a friendship grows. In an effort to save Tommie from becoming just like him, David invites Tommie away from the city and into the country heartland he grew up in. What follows is a journey of self- discovery for both David and Tommie, culminating in an emotional bond that neither of them could have predicted.
The main character's choice to befriend an eleven year old girl is at the center of the film's controversy. The film pays a price for having a protagonist who crosses social sanctioned boundaries in trying to do the right thing, scaring off potential viewers. Partridge was very aware of this controversy, and the ethics of their relationship is one of the continuing topics within the film: Is David going to get in trouble for his behavior? Does he deserve to get in trouble? For the sake of not trying to force my perception of their relationship, I won't try too hard to persuade you one way or another.
It is important, however, to note that while Tommie and David are constantly thrown into circumstances that force them to confront the delicacy of their situation, their relationship never approaches a sexual nature. You needn't worry about David peeking at Tommie in the bathroom, or anything similar.
Ross Partridge and Oona Lawrence embody their characters so naturally. What they do here should barely be called acting. More like being. Partridge is given the complex task of having to convey deep confusion to the audience, but confidence when he's with his costar. Fortunately, he's able to pull this off and articulate David's personal journey at every stage with perfection. Despite her young age, Lawrence demonstrates remarkable acting in such a demanding role, conveying innocence and intelligence simultaneously. More impressive than the acting ability of either individual is the chemistry between the two leads. They aren't the only actors in the film, but still carry the film mostly between the two of them. Fortunately, they carry it just fine.
One element of the film that really surprised me was the cinematography, specifically the number of landscape shots. Even images of the city, which is supposed to represent a metaphorical prison for both characters, look tranquil. This form is consistent throughout the film as the background changes to hotel lobbies to the roadside to the country. These landscape shots were amplified by the music underscoring each scene.
The recurring piano score endowed the film with a sort of innocence, a hopefulness that neither of the protagonists have a surplus of. It's especially helpful early on as Tommie and David's relationship starts to bud. Probably the single best tool the film used to alleviate the uncertainty we feel toward David at the beginning.
Assuming he'd prefer viewers to not be drowned by David's unconventional behavior, I'd suggest to Partridge that he give increased cognizance of Tommie's sad home life to David. The easiest argument against David having ill intentions is that he was trying to save Tommie from wasting away in neglect, and even an unconventional intervention is better than no intervention at all. While we see that David is aware of Tommie's situation, further enunciating that Tommie would be worse off without him would make his actions much more understandable. This would have been much more helpful, not to mention economic, than David or Tommie intermittently commenting, "This is weird. He, he."
Lamb is bold in a way many films claim to be but seldom are. Not everyone is going to accept Partridge's direction, which is understandable. Lamb may be aggressive in how it breaks social norms, but in the wake of Partridge's loud experiment is a delicately crafted film. The liberation afforded to this movie allows for a very honest exploration of good intentions, redemption, and the nature of love, in the process creating a relationship that manages to be both powerful and tender. I'm not sure I've seen anything like it anywhere else in the film world. The closest I can think of would be Leon: The Professional. One thing is for sure, much like David and Tommie are changed by their adventure, you will never be the same after watching this film.
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